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Two cowboys walk into a trailer. No, this isn't the beginning of a bad joke; it's the start of Brokeback Mountain.
The two cowboys are Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, and they get a job from a man named Joe Aguirre after the easiest job interview ever. No resume required. No letters of recommendation. No reference check. Aguirre hires the men on the spot to wrangle his sheep on Brokeback Mountain.
On top of Brokeback, all covered with sheep, Jack and Ennis share a tent, and we don't mean for sleep. They get super close during their time on the mountain, having a few romantic encounters. For Ennis, it seems to be his first time with a man. Jack appears to be more experienced. However, when Aguirre witnesses the men playfully wrestling together, he is determined to make it their last time, and he brings the men down from the mountain early.
Four years pass before the men see each other again. Both get married, Ennis to Alma and Jack to Lureen Newsome. Ennis stays in Wyoming with his wife and two kids, while Jack moves to Texas, where he helps Lureen raise their one son, and sells machinery at her papa's tractor supply store.
One day, Jack tracks down Ennis and sends him a postcard. Ennis describes Jack to his wife as an old fishing buddy. However, when Jack arrives, Ennis kisses him outside his apartment. Alma witnesses the kiss, and realizes these two men are doing more than fish. Yet she never says a thing. Poor Alma. Poor Ennis. Poor pretty much everyone in this movie. (Except Ennis' daughter. She ends up happy—but we're getting ahead of ourselves.)
Over the next few years, the men get together whenever they can to "fish," which is probably the least sexy euphemism we've ever heard of. Alma and Ennis eventually divorce, and Jack thinks that means Ennis is free to get a ranch with him. But Ennis, who's deeply afraid of being outed as having a sexual identity other than 100% Straight Marlboro Man Lookalike, won't do it.
Alma remarries, and Ennis goes out with a woman named Cassie. She's a waitress, serving up beer with a heaping side of denial. Ennis is in denial if he thinks he can move on from Jack. And Cassie's in denial for not realizing that her new boyfriend has someone else on the brain.
Ennis is also distant from his daughters. Alma Jr., already unfortunate enough to be named Alma Jr., tries to get closer to her dad, but spending time with Ennis Del Mar is like spending time with a brooding mannequin—he's not one for words.
By this point, Ennis barely talks to his new girlfriend. He barely talks to his daughters. And he barely talks to Jack. Ennis is taking the whole "Lone Ranger" stereotype way too seriously. Even the Lone Ranger had friends, and he had Lone in his name.
Sick of being lonely, Jack makes one final plea to be with Ennis. There's crying involved. Big, wet, grown-man tears from both Jack and Ennis. Deeply afraid of being outed, Ennis tells Jack that he would rather be alone. Jack no longer wants to put all the effort into their one-sided relationship. "I wish I knew how to quit you," he says.
Much later, Ennis attempts to reconnect with Jack. He sends him a postcard, which is returned because the recipient is deceased. Shocked, Ennis contacts Jack's wife, Lureen. Lureen says Jack died changing a tire, which exploded, but Ennis doesn't believe that Lureen is telling the truth. Ennis was always afraid of being beaten to death if he was discovered to be gay, so he imagines Jack meeting the same gruesome fate: beaten to death with a tire iron in a brutal hate crime.
Lureen tells Ennis that Jack wanted his ashes scattered on Brokeback Mountain, but she didn't know where that was. (No Google Maps for her to check.) Ennis says Brokeback is where he and Jack met, and Lureen finally realizes the true nature of Jack's relationship with Ennis.
Ennis attempts to retrieve Jack's ashes from his parents, but Jack's hateful father won't let him have the remains. What's he going to do with them? This guy is such a jerk, he probably puts them in his coffee instead of sugar.
Jack's mother is nice enough to allow Ennis inside Jack's room. Ennis finds two shirts – his and Jack's, saved from their time up on Brokeback, hanging together in the closet. Aww. Ennis takes the shirts back to his trailer.
When his daughter, now an adult, tells Ennis that she's getting married, Ennis agrees to skip work to attend her wedding. This is a big deal for Ennis, showing us that he's attempting to be closer to his family. Just don't wear your dead boyfriend's bloody shirt to the reception, okay?
His daughter leaves, forgetting her sweater. (Forgetting garments is something that runs in this family.) Ennis gently folds it and puts it into his closet.
Inside hangs the two shirts, along with a postcard of Brokeback Mountain. Ennis straightens the shirt, and tears up. He'll never forget Jack and all their time on the mountain.
And, at this point, our own shirt is tear-stained. Guys, you can cry too. As we've learned, real men show their emotion.